THOMASTON >> No. 2 Thomaston beat No. 15 St. Paul Catholic 2-1 Wednesday afternoon in a 10-inning game with more heart-stopping twists and turns than your favorite action movie.
Danielle Genest dashed in with the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th; each team held its breath at the edge of a cliff several times before that.
“We had opportunities to score and we didn’t,” said St. Paul coach Gary Hovhanessian. “It’s not one play that makes the game. We should have been up 2…3…or 4-0 and ended it in seven. But give them credit, they didn’t give up.”
The Falcons out-hit Thomaston 8-4. In this game, that just meant more daredevil escapes for the Golden Bears. They stranded 13 St. Paul runners in dire circumstances that will haunt the Falcons for a lifetime.
“We don’t like to lose,” grinned Golden Bear Abby Hurlbert, who last expressed that sentiment with three straight foul shots in Thomaston’s Class S basketball championship game.
Lots of basketball teammates joined Wednesday’s party.
Sophomore Morgan Sanson, for instance, stood on the mound, leading escapes from one major jam after another.
“With base runners on, she bears down,” said Thomaston co-coach Gene Torrence. “That wouldn’t have happened last year.”
“I think she thrives on pressure,” said co-coach Kelly Finlay.
“We practice those kinds of situations all the time,” said Sanson (10 innings, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts, 4 walks).
Results showed early and often Wednesday.
In the top of the first, Falcons Meredith Maynard and Alessandra Milardo hit singles on either side of Sanson’s first strikeout. The Bears escaped with a 4-6-3 double play, Genest to Abby Hurlbert to Gabby Hurlbert.
Still, St. Paul freshman pitcher Alessandro Milardo (9+ innings, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 10 strikeouts, 6 walks) breezed through the first three Thomaston batters in the bottom of the inning, predicting a tough assignment for the Bears.
The path got tougher for both teams in the second.
Sanson got her second strikeout for one out, but the Falcons loaded the bases on hits by Maddie Sturm and Corrine Johndrow and a walk to Ashley Kosikowski.
Time to bear down.
Thomaston third baseman Nina Barone fired a grounder back to the plate for the second out. Sanson flipped a come-backer to first for the third.
In the bottom of the inning, Erin O’Neill made it all the way to third on a leadoff walk, steal and a wild pitch.
Milardo’s reaction was simple: strikeouts for the next three Thomaston batters.
Three more Milardo strikeouts — her eighth in three innings — slanted the field further in an otherwise quiet third.
With another jam, in the top of the fourth — on a walk, sacrifice bunt and fielder’s choice gone wrong, it seemed just a matter of time for St. Paul.
But not this time.
Sanson bore down: strikeout and grounder to third.
Thomaston returned the pressure with two outs in the bottom of the fourth — a walk to O’Neill and a double by Sanson. Milardo ended it with another K.
Odds finally tipped St. Paul’s way in the sixth.
Lauren Benoit led off with a single and stole second. A bad throw got her to third. Falcon Jess Jalbert, on base with the error, headed for second. Benoit raced home when the Thomaston throw chased Jalbert.
The Bears seemed done.
O’Neill got to second in the sixth on another walk and steal, but no further.
The bottom of the seventh offered one last shot.
Nicole Schaefer drew a walk, stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. But Thomaston’s lights dimmed with a foul pop to Falcon catcher Benoit and another to Milardo.
Genest, ninth in the Golden Bear order, struck out in her first two at-bats. Now, with two outs, the game rested on her sophomore shoulders.
She lined the first pitch up the middle with an RBI single.
“I just really liked the pitch and I went for it,” she smiled.
“We think we can hit, one through nine in our order,” said Coach Torrence.
At 1-1, the task was holding on long enough to prove it again.
Sanson faced another bases-loaded situation in the eighth, this time with two outs. A pop-up to third ended the threat.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Abby Hurlbert auditioned for a Hollywood ending with a towering blast to center field.
Instead, it led to the biggest twist in the movie: Hurlbert pulled up with a triple; O’Neill went to first with her fourth walk of the game, then stole second.
Sanson got her bunt down on a suicide squeeze with Hurlbert coming from third. Milardo flipped to Benoit in time to get Hurlbert at the plate. Then O’Neill charged down the line from third, hoping to catch the Falcons by surprise at the end of the play.
Instead, Milardo flipped again for the third out.
After one more Sanson escape with Falcons on second and third in the ninth, it all seemed like more practice in the bottom of the 10th.
Genest led off, taking a ball on her helmet. She stole second.
Gabby Hurlbert lay down a perfect bunt for a single, Genest to third.
Hurlbert stole second. The eighth inning seemed to rewind.
This time, Milardo’s pitch got past Benoit. Genest broke for home. The game was over.
The Golden Bears (17-2) host No. 23 Notre Dame-Fairfield (11-11) in a Quarterfinals game today, 3 p.m. at Thomaston High School.
Thomaston 2, St. Paul 1 (10)
St. Paul 000 001 0000 — 1 6 0
Thomaston 000 000 1001 — 2 3 2
Alessandra Milardo and Lauren Benoint; Morgan Sanson and Nicole Schaefer.
WP: Morgan Sanson (). LP: Alessandra Milardo ().
3B: (THOM) Morgan Sanson, Abby Hurlbert. RBI: Danielle Genest (THOM);